II Thessalonians 2:1-2, "Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand."
One of the most harrowing thoughts for some Christian people is the second coming of Jesus Christ. They live in fear of that day for many wrong reasons, such as staying saved themselves or getting their dearest friends saved before that great and notable day of the Lord. Sometimes, I wonder if the song "Wait a Little Longer Lord Jesus" was written by someone wrought up with the same thoughts in his mind. Knowing that the Bible states that all of God's children will be in heaven without the loss of one should bring comfort and peace when looking toward that day. (John 10:28-29) Yet, so many of us that know of free grace and the ultimate coming of our Lord in glory still find ourselves in the throes of sorrow, depression, sadness, anxiety, and trouble.
Paul's second epistle to the Thessalonian brethren is one of the most powerful epistles on church comfort and encouragement in all of Holy Writ. Even though his first epistle is longer, this second epistle seems to show an even more encouraging tone when Paul lays out these people's manner of life. (II Thessalonians 1:3-6) Paul's ultimate thought to drive at with these beloved people is that they should not be "weary in well doing." (II Thessalonians 3:13) Considering the ramifications of that statement, Paul – in essence – tells them, "You are doing right, doing well, and glorifying God. Keep it up." What lovely people these brethren were! Yet, Paul's encouragement also touches on the second coming of Christ and their thoughts of it.
From the language in our study verses, it seems that these brethren took Paul's discourse on the second coming in I Thessalonians 4 as a token that it would happen in a matter of days or weeks. Now Paul encourages them as if it will not happen as imminently as they suppose. What Paul specifically mentions as a precursor to the second coming is found in verse 3. Before His return, there will be a falling away – whether in the knowledge of the truth or spirituality in general, either apply – which marks the "season" that will be upon the world at that day. Now, since no man knows the day or the hour (I Thessalonians 5), Paul encourages them that there are things that mark the season. Those marks shine very vividly today.
Since Paul thought it meet to exhort these beloved people based on their misguided sight of the second coming, what was their probable fault? A favourite series of questions of mine to congregations is this, "What would you do if you thought Christ was coming back today? What about tomorrow? Next week? Next year? Fifteen years from now? After you die?" Do the answers change from question to question? What I should do today knowing He is coming today should not change even if I knew that I would die before His return. Can you imagine these people thinking that Christ was coming today, next week, or next month? Maybe they did not put as much emphasis on their secular jobs. Perhaps next year's crop meant less than it should. However, the right course of life, way of thinking, and attitude towards things should not vary based on circumstance.
Paul exhorts the brethren to two things in our verses: 1. be not soon shaken in mind or 2. troubled. Let us consider these two thoughts in light of what Paul says in verse 3. Knowing that Scripture clearly prophesies that a falling away will occur, what should our outlook be? As we mentioned above, the outlook should be the same regardless of circumstances, for nothing that occurs here changes certain absolutes: He rules, He reigns, and He will return. Knowing those absolutes will be certain and sure even when this world is on fire, why be downcast, troubled, or shaken?
Perhaps my thinking is somewhat warped, but considering the huge decline of spirituality in the world today and massive departures from the church and even organized religion as a whole across the board, perhaps His coming is closer at the doors than many think? While a delightful thought that His coming might be nigh and very near, my course in the face of decline, ruin, and chaos in the world around is still the same. Do not be soon shaken in mind or troubled.
If someone sees the massive departures from the church or spiritual things and becomes shaken in mind, what is the outcome? The outcome is a rash and impulsive decision to "right the ship" as it were. Circumstances have dictated the action, and the end product is the massive ruin of being tossed about by every wind of doctrine and cunning craftiness and sleight of men. (Ephesians 4) Seeing the rapid decline of spiritual mentality and a low priority of organized worship in the minds of many, I should neither be surprised (Scripture declares it) or shaken in mind about it.
If someone sees these things and becomes troubled, what is the outcome? A troubled mind can only think about one thing. Have you ever seen someone going through grief about a hard circumstance in their life? They cannot think about anything else, and their mind consistently and constantly returns to the grief. Sometimes it overwhelms them and "burns them up" in a fiery consumption. Looking at the crumbling spirituality around us should be sad to our minds and something that we work to improve in our communities and immediate circles of influence, but it should not trouble us. Should it trouble us in the sense that Paul encourages them against, we will think of nothing else and be consumed by it.
Pulling all these thoughts together, let us consider not being troubled or shaken in mind in the face of hard situations contrasted against the second coming of Christ. Yes, departures happen, and before His coming, there is a big one. Yes, people will turn their minds and ears away from the truth (II Timothy 4), but none of these things should consume our thinking or trouble us in mind to make a rash decision. Both rash decisions and consumed thoughts have no room for daily consistent thinking of the second coming. If I am failing at one or both of these things, then I cannot focus on the second coming of my Saviour. If my mind is clear from the clouds of trouble and storms of shaken thoughts, then I can contemplate a glorious day when I shall see Him as He is and know Him as He knows me.
Finally, if our daily thoughts should have the coming of Christ at the forefront, one might ask, "Isn't that what you said these Thessalonians were doing? Didn't Paul encourage them out of it?" Paul encouraged them out of changing their life's pattern thinking about the second coming. Friends, I know not whether it will be today, tomorrow, next year, or even in my lifetime. I hope earnestly that I will see it before my flesh is laid down in death, but that may not be. Yet, regardless of the time, the knowledge of His return should be in every day, for that is the strength for today to stay in the right course. He is coming! He is coming! How do we make it through a bad week? He is coming! How do we keep sorrow from overwhelming us like a flood when we see the country and world going down constantly every day? He is coming! How do we deal with sorrow when strife afflicts the church or people depart from it? He is coming! Knowing that blessed thought, we keep ourselves from the dangerous behaviour of shaken minds and troubled thoughts. Also, our lives are more attuned to be sources of strength for our brethren and lights for those to see that hunger and thirst after righteousness.